Volkswagen takes autonomous driving to the street

Volkswagen tests Level 4 autonomous driving in public traffic situations

Published: April 5, 2019, 5:30 PM
Updated: November 21, 2021, 2:54 PM

Volkswagen e-Golf autonomous test car

Volkswagen is taking autonomous driving to the streets, trying out its latest Level4-ready e-Golf in real time on the streets of Hamburg.

This marks the first time that the company has tested a Level 4 autonomous vehicle (where the car can handle driving situations by itself, but a driver can still take control as desired) in full traffic situations on city streets. The tests will take place on a specially created 3-km “digital” loop (created in partnership with the city of Hamburg, as part of a 9-km test loop due to open next year), with data continuously evaluated.

“The tests centre on technical possibilities as well as urban infrastructure requirements,” said Axel Heinrich, Head of Volkswagen Group Research. “In order to make driving even safer and more comfortable in future, vehicles not only have to become autonomous and more intelligent – cities must also provide a digital ecosystem that enables vehicles to communicate with traffic lights and traffic management systems as well as with one another.”

Hamburg and Volkswagen have a strategic mobility partnership to further autonomous driving, with the city finalizing construction on a 9-km test loop due to open in 2020. The city is currently upgrading traffic lights with components to enable infrastructure-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication (I2V and V2I, respectively) to optimize traffic flows.

“Two and a half years from now, Hamburg will be hosting the World Congress for Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS). Automated driving will play a key role,” said Michael Westhagemann, Senator for Economics, Transport and Innovation for the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg. “I am delighted that our strategic partner Volkswagen has already become the first user for our digital test bed. We will establish Hamburg as a model city for intelligent mobility and be presenting numerous innovative mobility projects to a global audience in 2021.”

The test e-Golf is configured with 11 laser scanners, 7 radar scanners, 14 cameras and computing power to match 15 laptops tucked away in the trunk. Up to 5 gigabytes of data are transferred per minute, with each drive reportedly lasting several hours.

For safety purposes, the cars are overseen by specially-trained test drivers, monitoring all driving functions and ready to intervene in emergency situations. Level 5 automated driving (where a driver is not required in the vehicle) in public traffic will require changes in the legislative framework, as well as all the necessary infrastructure (not an inexpensive undertaking!).